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Australia’s $40 per pack cigarette tax plans: the need to consider equity
  1. Katherine T Hirono1,2,
  2. Katherine E Smith3
  1. 1 Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation, University of New South Wales, Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Ingham Institute, Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 Global Public Health Unit, Social Policy, School of Social & Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Katherine T Hirono, Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation, University of New South Wales, 1 Campbell St, Liverpool BC 1871, New South Wales, Australia; k.hirono{at}


In May 2016, the Australian Government announced that it would implement annual increases in tobacco excise of 12.5% up to and including 2020, raising the cost of a pack of cigarettes to $A40. This increase will lead to Australia having one of the highest prices of cigarettes in the world. Increasing the cost of tobacco is considered by public health experts to be one of the most effective strategies to reduce tobacco use, and is generally well supported by the public. However, tobacco tax increases differentially impact various subgroups of the population. Based on a review of existing literature, this paper examines some of the potential (unintended) consequences of the tax to individual and family income; illicit trade; social stigma and opportunities for lobbying by the tobacco industry. In light of these considerations, we offer strategies that might be used by policymakers to mitigate potential harms. While this paper focuses on the impacts primarily on populations in Australia, the consequences and strategies offered may be useful to other countries implementing tobacco excise increases.

  • Taxation
  • Disparities
  • Priority/special populations

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  • Contributors Both authors contributed to the conceptualisation, writing and editing of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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